On April 12, 2023

A bit of levity

Recently during a late evening floor session, our committee had the unenviable task of explaining the 258-page budget that touches virtually everything the state does. All 12 committee members took turns explaining their sections, which took over two hours. So, when it was my turn, I started off with: “Madam Speaker, we often start each day in Appropriations with a riddle or joke. Tonight, I was going to tell a time traveling joke…but you didn’t like it.” I couldn’t tell from the look on her face if she got the joke or didn’t approve of my attempt at humor…

What does this have to do with anything you might ask? There are many serious issues we work on day in and day out, including the state budget that impacts a multitude of services and what we all pay to fund them. Life is too short to not get along as people and sometimes a bit of levity interjected can help in that vein. We don’t always have to agree on what bills to pass or how they should be structured, but if we can’t talk, we will never get anywhere.

As of last Friday, 72 bills were passed by the House and 50 by the Senate. Five of those have been enacted into law (mid-year budget adjustment, municipal meeting options, Colchester fire district dissolution, health care regulatory flexibility, legislative oversight of payment reform and case management for disability services). This is the time of session where committees are busy working on bills sent over by the other chamber. Committee priorities not passed by either chamber at this point, typically wait until the next session, unless they can be added onto another bill under consideration.

Other issues of interest:

This year’s capital construction bill includes money to start the planning of a new women’s prison. Most agree that the facility needs upgrading. However, the ACLU argues that reforms, such as abolition of cash bail, could dramatically reduce the need for a larger prison and reforms should happen first.

Sen. Tanya Vyhovsky, P/D-Chittenden Central, led a press conference to advocate for decriminalizing small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use. The argument is that prohibition has failed to reduce overdose deaths. The group went on to say that substance use disorder is a medical condition, not a crime, and Vermont law should treat it as such. Given the lateness in the session, action on the proposed decimalization is not likely this year.

Legislation prohibiting child marriages (under 18) has passed the House and Senate and will be sent to the governor soon.

A press report that a private equity firm now owns six Vermont childcare centers that are significantly raising its rates to families, could add a pause in the discussion on increasing state subsidies. The Senate passed bill, S.56, is now being reviewed by a House committee. The legislation is funded by eliminating a child tax credit approved last year and enacting a new payroll tax on wages. Will the new assistance to families up to $185,000 in income, make it easier for such private equity firms further increase their rates and bottom line?

The House Government Operations Committee approved a charter change for Brattleboro on an 8-3 vote that will allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections and serve as elected officials in town. A similar measure was vetoed by the governor last year. However legislative leaders may now feel they can override expected objections from the governor this year.

Scott has signaled he has concerns over a House passed bill, H.230, that would require a new 72-hour waiting period to purchase a firearm that may also have some constitutional issues with its storage requirements.

The annual transportation bill includes a provision authorizing the Agency of Transportation to design a system that would assess a fee on electric cars based on miles driven.

And back to a bit of levity, I have the honor of being a self-proclaimed co-commissioner of our State House March Madness competition along with Lt. Governor David Zuckerman. David and I see the world through a different lens sometimes, but we both agree it’s important to have diversions and fun sometimes. During the tournament, I provided periodic updates where participants sometimes got tagged with a nickname by me. One of those on the receiving end was VTDigger reporter Lola Duffort, whom I dubbed “Lucky Lola” in reference to doing well at the start of the event. When she reported on the event for Digger last week, I couldn’t help but notice that she signed the article, “Not so Lucky Lola.”

Rep. Jim Harrison is the Statehouse representative for Mendon, Killington, Chittenden and Pittsfield. He can be reached at JHarrison@leg.state.vt.us or harrisonforvermont.com.

Do you want to submit feedback to the editor?

Send Us An Email!

Related Posts

Gov. Scott vetoes bill that would’ve restricted bee-killing pesticide

May 22, 2024
Staff report On Monday, May 20, World Bee Day, Gov. Phil Scott vetoed legislation meant to protect bees and other pollinators from a widely-used neuorotoxic pesticide. The bill (H.706) would  eliminate most uses of neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) in Vermont, which have been associated with alarming losses of managed and wild bee populations. Neonic insecticides are used on…

Health premium increases of 16%-19% projected for 2025

May 22, 2024
Vermonters are again facing steep upward premium growth for 2025 due to the cumulative impact of hospital costs, drug prices and state health care policy choices. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont projects that these trends will continue and will require rate increases of 16.3% for individual health plans and 19.1% for the small group…

Sanders: weight loss drugs could bankrupt U.S. health care

May 22, 2024
As part of his investigation into the outrageously high price of Ozempic and Wegovy in the U.S., U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released a stunning new report May 15 exposing the potential of weight loss drugs to bankrupt American health care. In the report, HELP…

The future of fertilizer? Pee, says this Brattleboro institute

May 22, 2024
By Kate Kampner, Community News Service Editor’s note: The Community News Service is a program in which University of Vermont students work with professional editors to provide content for local news outlets at no cost. When Peter Stickney walks along his cow paddocks in the morning, he notes the scattered patches of greener grass across the…